MyPhone Agua Rio Review
Yay or nay?
I haven't seen this much fanfare over an Android device from a local brand in a while. But it's not hard to blame them when you see the price after seeing the spec sheet. Everyone wants THE bang for the buck and the MyPhone Agua Rio may just be the best candidate for that this first half of 2014.
The thing is, MyPhone has never been the ones for a race to the bottom. But the specs of their Rio tells otherwise. "That for P4,999? Seriously?". It does seem like a race to the bottom -- or a bold move to further increase market share by instigating a price war the competition can't win. It's simple: if you buy from us, you didn't buy from them. Lower profit margins, higher sales volume, and more importantly, bigger market share.
I'll keep this short. All this seems more along the lines of Cherry Mobile. So the Rio leaves many people asking: "What's the catch?".
Please note that the MyPhone Agua Rio is also rebranded in France as the Wiko Rainbow and in Russia as the Explay Fresh.
Design and Build Quality
The MyPhone Rio's design is mainly, ermm... inspired by the colorful Lumia and Asha lineup from Nokia. You'd be forgiven to think it was one from afar. The phone's entirely black facade is contrasted by a back cover that envelopes the rear and bumpers of the phone which gives it a unibody look. The back covers even come in the same colors as Nokia's Lumia line: white, black, cyan, orange, red, green, purple and yellow.
Due to the unibody look, the body doesn't have much curvature and tapering nor does it have any contrasting textures. It feels more "block-ish", similar to Nokia's newer Lumia phones, the HTC One and several of Sony's Xperia phones, albeit the Xperia phones are noticeably thinner. The Rio's dimensions are 146 x 74 x 9.3 mm. The glass-clad Xperia phones can get as thin as 6.5 mm.
There's nothing pretentious about the Rio's design -- it's fun, loud, with some modern chic thrown in. At these price points, a clearly defined design direction like this is better than attempting to imitate more expensive phones using more elaborate designs with faux accents and cheap materials. Luxury is also about the choice of materials, finish and build as much as the design itself. When there is a discrepancy, it sticks out like a sore thumb. The Rio's clear design identity enables it to stand out in a good way.
In terms of ergonomics, the Rio does no wrong with ideally placed buttons and ports. Both the USB and 3.5 mm port are located center on top, which leaves a bit of room to rest the in-betweens of your fingers even when both ports are plugged when handling the phone in landscape mode. The volume and power buttons, which are located on the left and right sides of the phone respectively, are just right. Soft, but tactile and sturdy, and of the right size. The capacitive keys below the screen are backlit and there's also an LED notification light hidden beneath the rightmost portion of the earpiece grill.
The camera protrudes slightly, but the beveled chrome edges around the lens are there to prevent the lens from being touched when sitting atop a flat surface. Likewise, the loudspeaker on the lower part of the back also has two slightly protruding nudges to prevent it from being completely covered when atop a flat surface. This is necessary because the back is almost completely flat.
The Rio is constructed mostly of ABS plastic as opposed to the more expensive polycarbonate bodies of Lumia phones. This includes the back cover which has a matte finish regardless of color, which is good because it provides a good grip and prevents it from accumulating unsightly fingerprints. The screen isn't flush and there's a narrow border around it that acts as a supporting frame for the chassis. My caveat with the screen is that it's made of plastic (acrylic glass to be specific, which is a polymer), not real glass. Aside from being detrimental to the display quality, it also makes the phone feel cheap. Not unexpected because this is a cheap phone, but I surmise adding a glass screen wouldn't really add much to the BOM (bill of materials).
Despite the plastics and an enveloping back cover that's easy to remove, the phone has some heft to it with 167 grams that's evenly distributed. The build quality is pretty good and it feels solid all throughout. No creaks or flex when squeezing the phone, although it really is hard to escape the fact that, again, it does feel cheap. At least the simple design seems to have made the manufacturing of this device easier and simpler which also contributes to better build quality.
The Rio has two mini SIM card slots which are not hot swappable as the battery blocks the insertion points. The micro SD card is hot swappable though you need to remove the back cover first.
The Rio does not come with a screen protector out of the box and I strongly suggest having a screen protector attached right after purchase. Here is a checklist of what comes inside the box:
- 1x MyPhone Agua Rio
- 1x 2000 mAh battery
- 1x 1000 mA charger
- 1x USB cable
- 1x Headset
- 1x User's manual
- 1x Warranty card
The MyPhone Rio is equipped with a 5.0" 720p (1280x720) screen that supports 5 point multitouch. It uses an IPS panel which provides good viewing angles from any position. IPS panels are 8-bit and can display up to 16.7 million colors, which means it has a wide color gamut.
The display is a bit underwhelming for an IPS panel. It's obviously an IPS-equivalent panel at first glance, but the contrast is uncharacteristically low. A side effect of the low contrast is that blacks are bluish instead of black and the colors are relatively mute compared to most IPS panels which are richer and more intense (though often thanks to enhanced saturation), but don't necessarily muddy the fine color detail, like on gradients. That also brings me to another issue which is white and black crushing, which is clearly seen on black and white scales. It's not really apparent with most images, but when mostly dark or just white and light gray are being displayed, it becomes obvious. Take for instance the EQ settings UI of Poweramp where the subtle shades of very dark blue and black disappear.
I really wish they spent a bit more time tuning the display beforehand. It was doable even for crappy TN panels like on the Fuze. As for other properties, the color temperature is warm with hue being very slightly green biased. This makes the display look a bit soft but easier on the eyes for prolonged viewing. Brightness up to 50% of the brightness bar is up to par with most IPS-equipped phones, but comes up short at maximum brightness. It's still fairly bright, especially compared to TN panels. But at maximum brightness, the Rio couldn't touch my iPhone 5 which has one of the brightest displays in the market and is representative of the brightness levels found on most LCD-equipped high-end smartphones which constantly push brightness level upwards of 500 cd/m².
Brightness, White (cd/m²)
MyPhone Agua Rio
Apple iPhone 5
Aside from the panel, the other major culprit for the display's deficiencies is the plastic screen. It's hard plastic that's designed to feel like glass, but clearly isn't. The plastic screen simply doesn't provide the same clarity and light transmission that a glass screen would. It also isn't a OGS screen as they only manufacture OGS units with glass. The additional gap from the panel and the screen further reduces light transmission and introduces a tiny amount of diffusion as a result.
Under sunlit conditions, the plastic screen is an unexpected glare magnet, which doesn't help with the screen's already relatively low light transmission and brightness. High brightness is a must in direct sunlight for the display to be legible. Setting the brightness to auto in these conditions is advisable. Adjustments to brightness are made in as fast two seconds while in auto brightness and it's a bit conservative of brightness levels except in sunlit conditions.
Those things aside, it's hard to forget that the Rio is 4,999 Php and has a display equipped with an IPS panel of 720p resolution. Currently, it has the best display for a smartphone under 5,000 Php, and if you consider phones that the Rio actually target, only the Cherry Mobile Flare HD offers a better display overall.
The 5.0" display's 720p resolution translates to 294 PPI which is still high and sharp by today's standards. Text and graphics are crisp. Viewing webpages in landscape mode is a delight as most text is fairly sharp and easily readable even when fully zoomed out.
The Rio's display is of the budget IPS kind, not much different than what you'd find on other smartphones with a non-OGS 720p IPS display like the MyPhone A919i and Cherry Mobile Apollo. Overall though, it doesn't change the fact that the Rio's display is one of the best in its price range, offering good color reproduction, good brightness, good viewing angles and great resolution. It's a display you will not be ashamed to show your friends.
This is the third phone I'm reviewing that uses the MediaTek MTK6582 chipset. The MTK6582 has four Cortex A7 cores of the r0p3 revision running at 1.3 Ghz. The r0p3 revision of the Cortex A7 core has a noticeable improvement in performance over Cortex A7 cores of the r0p2 revision, like those found on the MTK6589 line. In terms of CPU performance, the MTK6582 performs about as fast as the MTK6589T which operates at 1.5 Ghz.
Performance improvements from revision r0p2 to r0p3 have been officially documented under Section 1.8 'Product revisions' of the Cortex A7 MPCore Technical Reference Manual (revision r0p3) found here: <click here>.
I am unsure, however, if this is a MediaTek MTK6582 or MTK6582M. The difference being the dual core Mali-400 graphics on the MTK6582M operate at 416 Mhz vs 500 Mhz on the regular MTK6582. It's difficult to know which one the Rio has without taking a look at the board or having direct access to the GPU, and low level access to the GPU is disabled on the kernel. Many sites have listed the Rio as using the MTK6582M chipset, but the display controller on the MTK6582M only supports up to 960x540 resolution. It's possible for the display controller to go beyond that limit at the cost of refresh rate, but the Rio's refresh rate is 60 Hz. Hence, I believe the Rio uses the regular MTK6582 chipset.
AnTuTu Benchmark 4
Linpack - Single Threaded
Linpack - Multi Threaded
Vellamo - HTML5
Vellamo - Metal
Epic Citadel - High Performance
Epic Citadel - High Quality
Basemark ES 2.0 Taiji
Basemark X v1.1
3DMark - Ice Storm v1.2
GFXBench - T-Rex (Onscreen)
GFXBench - T-Rex (Offscreen, 1080p)
The graphics performance of the MTK6582 proved to be mighty on the Cherry Mobile Fuze and Cloudfone Excite 470q, allowing most games to run at high graphics settings smoothly. It isn't exactly the same on the MyPhone Rio because of its 1280x720 screen resolution. That's 921,000 pixels, significantly higher than the 409,920 and 518,400 pixels on the Fuze and Excite 470q respectively. The bottleneck becomes noticeable on games with very complex graphics at high settings. Hence, the Rio takes a notch down and plays graphically demanding games smoothly at medium settings. Despite this, the gaming performance is still better than devices equipped with the MTK6589 or MTK6589T at the same display resolution. Games with not-so-demanding graphics like Dead Trigger 2 will still play smoothly at high settings.
With the performance-level of the Rio close to that of a Samsung Galaxy S3, a flagship phone from 2012, it's odd that navigating around the Rio's interface in general just doesn't feel as snappy. It's not "laggy" where input lag is concerned (most just call it "lag" anyway), but the transitions and animations while navigating through the interface is not buttery smooth, similar to comparing two videos in 24p and 60p. There are a lot of phones equipped with the slower MTK6589 and a 720p display which run a smoother interface. One would expect a device with this performance level to be smoother and it shows that the Rio hasn't been optimized enough. You can use an application called Seeder to improve upon the UI response and smoothness and its developer has made in available for free on XDA-Developers via this thread. However, it will require the Rio to be rooted. Rooting the Rio will be discussed in the 'Other stuff' section of this review.
The video below demonstrates the Rio's UI with and without Seeder:
That said, the Rio does offer acceptably smooth performance if you aren't picky with the UI smoothness. The 1 GB of RAM (966.5 MB to be precise) offers a little over 500 MB of free space after a fresh boot. If you remove some of the bloatware, you can increase that amount to around 600 MB. Regardless, the 1 GB of RAM allows you to perform general multitasking workloads without causing a significant slowdown in overall response time. i.e. watching a windowed HD video while browsing the web, answering text messages, running through your email, reading a PDF file; all being performed in a repetitive and sequential manner
Given the MTK6582 phones I tested before, I didn't expect anything less than smooth 1080p video playback of H.264 content. The Rio is able to play 1080p60 H.264 content with reasonable bitrate and encoding with its hardware decoder. The hardware audio decoder cannot process beyond two channel audio so multi-channel audio streams like 5.1 will be handled via the software decoder.
1920x800 @ 24 FPS, AVC High Profile L4.1, with CABAC, 3 reference frames
1920x800 @ 24 FPS, AVC High Profile L4.0, with CABAC, 5 reference frames
1920x1080 @ 60 FPS, AVC Baseline Profile L3.0, with CABAC, 1 reference frame
317 Kbps, 6 channel AAC
306 Kbps, 6 channels, AAC
132 Kbps, 2 channels, AAC
Plays via hardware decoder:
Plays via software decoder:
(HW) Has dropped frames:
(SW) Has dropped frames:
The Rio is equipped with an 8 megapixel auto focus camera with a single LED flash. The camera sensor used is an Omnivision OV8825 which is an 8 megapixel 1/3.2" BSI sensor with a pixel size of 1.4 µm. Lens aperture is brighter than usual at f/2.4.
The camera interface on the Rio is a breath of fresh air as it's noticeably different from the stock Jellybean camera UI you'd find on most locally branded phones running Jellybean. While the modifications to the camera interface isn't as extensive as what you'd find on a Samsung or Sony Android phone, they've done a few things to make the use of the camera easier.
Most noticeable is that the still shot and video recording facilities do not share the same interface anymore. You have to toggle between the two modes before you can perform either a still shot or recording, and this makes framing easier before recording because the sensor is cropped in video recording mode (people describe this as "zoomed in" when video recording). Another noticeable inclusion is a quick access panel on the left side of the camera interface that gives you access to commonly used controls like different shooting modes, front or rear camera, flash mode, etc. The other controls, particularly manual ones, are found on the regular options menu accessed by tapping on the Android 'menu' soft key.
The common Jellybean still shot camera features are also found on the Rio. You can adjust common image properties such as brightness, sharpness, contrast, hue, saturation; change white balance, ISO (100 to 1600), exposure (+/- 3 steps) apply color effects/filters. Face detection is also present and automatically tracks faces that enter the viewfinder. ZSD (zero shutter delay) is also present and captures the image the moment the shutter is pressed. Without the ZSD option enabled, I measured shutter lag to be between 350 and 470 ms in decent lighting where the shot is taken when the focus is at its peak.
Shooting options include panorama, which can done from left to right or up to down and vice versa; face beauty, which does additional post-processing specifically to enhance facial features when it detects a face; smile shot, which automatically shoots a picture when it detects a smiling face on the viewfinder; EV bracket shot, which generates several shots at different exposure values; best shot mode which does additional post-processing on the shot to make it look better; and scene detection mode which automatically detects and applies the best scene mode. HDR shot mode is also available and in decent lighting, I measured the shutter lag between the low and high range shot to vary between 150 to 300 ms. The initial shutter lag on the first shot ranges from 300 to 650 ms, which is rather inconsistent. Overall, HDR shooting on the Rio is relatively fast in decent to good lighting and it's possible to take HDR shots in just one second of pressing the shutter.
Note that the ISO comparison shots below are taken in landscape orientation at full resolution, but are cropped to trim the width.
In well lit conditions, the Rio's camera impresses. It shows good dynamic range at lower ISO and manages to resolve plenty of detail. Colors look naturally lush without further saturation which preserves color detail. Details are well preserved at ISO 100 and 200. While noise begins to creep in at ISO 400, it strikes the best balance of sharpness and detail preservation in less than good lighting. Noise levels are also controlled surprisingly well with ISO set to auto in artificial lighting, with the shots I took at the 2014 Manila International Auto Show looking very useful indeed. Noise grain size is fine in most conditions except low light.
I do have some quirks with the camera though, even in good lighting. First is that it's not geared to be fast, with longer than usual exposure times, which is also a reason for the overexposed accents in strong sunlight conditions. Moving subjects outside the focus zone blur making the shooting of landscape still life difficult in anything but daylight conditions. This is also partially the fault of the lack of metering options, which is one of the few crucial things the Rio's camera lacks and is my second quirk. The default metering is center weighted average, with spot metering engaging when you focus manually. Lastly, the compression on the images is rather lackluster and very fine micro detail is smudged due to compression artifacts, like the chlorophyll structure on a leaf or pebbles on the asphalt. Images shot by the Rio can weigh as much as 1.6 MB in good lighting with lots of distinct details, but they normally weigh around 1 MB or lower.
Both metering and compression issues extend themselves as a cause and symptom respectively in low light conditions as the ISP (image signal processor) on the MTK6582 isn't very good. When taking shots in low light in auto mode, and by low light I mean outside at night with street lamps or lighted signage, the maximum exposure time is 1/8 second. This is normally more than long enough for cameras on mid-range or higher phones from well-known brands, who develop their own camera stack for their device. On the Rio, the ISP isn't smart enough and/or hasn't been tweaked enough to make the necessary changes in these lighting conditions. Having center weighted average as the default metering aggravates the situation further and the output image ends up being full of crushed blacks. Even with adequate low light, not exactly low, not exactly decent lighting (i.e. small room with fluorescent lighting: approx. 30 to 50 lux), there is a tendency to increase the exposure time which results in motion blur from even a subtle shake. Combine this with the ISP being unable to resolve details that should've been allotted by the extended exposure time, and the aggressive denoise filtering in post-processing, you get a soft image with all details smeared. Also, there's a tendency for the entire image to tint when night mode is enabled.
With these limitations, it's easy to see why other people shell out money for phones from international brands. My Galaxy S4 and iPhone 5 shoots in low light only slightly slower compared to well lit conditions, and it's all done without having to do anything else except press the shutter button. The investment on a chipset with a good ISP and efforts to tweak it really shine in low light conditions.
The Rio's low light camera performance is average at best, and even then it takes some patience and effort to get a good shot in low light. Luckily, for very close subjects in low light, the LED flash of the Rio is adequately powerful to illuminate subjects up to 1.5 meters away. Great for small group shots and taking pictures of small to medium sized objects in the dark, even in pitch black conditions. The flash lights up at half strength when you tap on the viewfinder to focus and fires at full strength when you press the shutter. This allows you to focus even in pitch black conditions.
Macro shooting distance is also very good, allowing you to get as close as 5 inches. The bokehs made by the Rio are also pleasant for a smartphone.
Please note that all images aside from the low light shots were taken on auto mode.
Shots taken in low light, including those taken with the LED flash have 'Scene detection mode' enabled.
Night mode is automatically activated in low light when 'Scene detection mode' is active.
Rio Sample Shots (Good lighting)Click thumbnail to view full-size
Rio Sample Shots (2014 Manila International Auto Show)Click thumbnail to view full-size
Rio Sample Shots (Low light)Click thumbnail to view full-size
Rio Sample Shots (LED flash)Click thumbnail to view full-size
Rio Sample Shots (Macro)Click thumbnail to view full-size
Rio Sample Shots (HDR)Click thumbnail to view full-size
Rio Sample Shots (Panorama)Click thumbnail to view full-size
The Rio is able to record videos at 1080p30 (1920x1088 to be precise). Videos are encoded in H.264 with a variable bitrate up to 17 Mbps while the audio is encoded in AAC with a constant bitrate of 128 Kbps. In decent to good lighting, the videos maintain a steady 30 FPS. In low light, frame rates are halved and if night mode is enabled, it drops even a bit more. Even with a good sensor like the OV8825, it's only as good as the ISP handling the raw data. For 1080p recording, it is average at best. Most fine detail is smeared out, but overall resolved detail is decent and compression artifacts such as macroblocking is kept to a minimum in decent to good lighting, including artificial lighting when indoors. You can also tap on the viewfinder to change the focal point while recording. A minute of 1080p footage ('Fine' setting) will consume about 130 MB in good lighting where bitrate is up.
Here's the lowdown on the MyPhone Agua Rio's camera:
- Very good performance in decent to good lighting, with good resolved detail and color preservation. However, very fine detail is smudged due to compression. Images are slightly oversharpened but tolerable. Unexpectedly good for this price range.
- Above average macro shooting.with generous shooting distance (up to 5 inches close). Can also create a decent looking bokeh for creative emphasis.
- Average 1080p recording, with solid framerates in any lighting condition but low light. Limited compression artifacts and doesn't miss out on much detail. Very fine or small detail (i.e. leather creases, rough asphalt) are missed. Video performance is above average for this price range.
- Average low light performance at best, and getting good shots in low light requires some patience and effort on the part of the user. Otherwise, low light performance is below average with soft images and smeared details all throughout. This is typical for this price range.
- LED flash is adequate and allows the user to illuminate people as well as small and medium sized objects from a 1.5 meter distance.
- The fixed focus 2 megapixel front facing camera is better than what you'd normally find in this price range. Decent light pickup even indoors with relatively low noise levels.
Mini shootout: MyPhone Agua Rio vs Apple iPhone 5
After discovering the Rio's prowess in good lighting, I decided to pit it against my iPhone 5 for kicks, and mainly because the iPhone 5 also has an 8 megapixel sensor and f/2.4 lens. I think it's rather absurd that a phone with this price can actually manage to trail the iPhone 5 closely, even in good lighting. When it was still the latest iPhone, the iPhone 5 was one of best cameraphones around, having a DXOMark rating of 74 for still shots. Even now it still manages to remain competitive with Android flagships from 2013 like the LG G2 and Samsung Galaxy S4.
Had it not been for the lousy compression on the Rio's images, it might actually be competitive with the iPhone 5. The Rio's shots can weigh as much as 1.6 MB, but is normally around 1 MB or lower. Images churned by the iPhone 5 are twice to thrice as large and spares no expense for image quality, not to mention the ISP on the Apple A6 chipset is of far better quality than that on the MTK6582, which is also why the iPhone 5 compensates much better in low light conditions and produces 1080p video that's competitive or slightly better than 2013 Android flagships like the LG G2 and Sony Xperia Z1. This is also the reason why there won't be a comparison of low light shots with the Rio as they are in different leagues altogether.
The Rio's images have a contrast and saturation boost to add vividness, as well as a tendency to overexpose. The iPhone 5's images look a bit dull in comparison due to its higher dynamic range and more controlled contrast, but it highlights the superior shadow detailing and preservation of details without excessive post processing. This makes the iPhone 5's shots look more natural. There's also a minor issue of aliasing on the Rio which isn't smoothed out by its ISP, and is further aggravated by the boosted sharpness on the Rio to compensate for its naturally softer lens. The aliasing as well as less fine noise grain makes the shots made by the Rio looks slightly dirty next to the ones taken by the iPhone 5. The iPhone 5's superior optics also means it has a sharper lens and it takes naturally crisp text without added sharpness from post-processing.
All things considered, the Rio's camera truly performs well in decent to good lighting conditions. The fact that it's managed to hold off its own, for the most part, against the iPhone 5's camera is an achievement and a victory for this price bracket.
The Rio is equipped with a 2000 mAh battery, which has been pretty standard fare for most 5" locally branded Android phones. The results of the Rio's battery tests so far support my assumptions of the high power consumption of the MTK6582 chipsets.
The following are the test conditions for the three tests. Note that brightness is set to 30% for all tests and that the battery has been calibrated prior to testing:
- Looping video - a 1 1/2 hour 480p XVID/H.263 video is played on loop until the battery level reaches 20%. Hardware decoding is used for the video and software decoding is used for audio. Earphones are plugged and volume is set to maximum.
- 3D gaming - a graphics-intensive 3D game is run on loop until the battery level reaches 15%. Built-in loudspeaker is used and volume is set to 50%.
Battery Test - Results
6 hours 20 minutes
6 hours 1 minute
2 hours 14 minutes
My assumptions began when the previous two MTK6582 phones I reviewed, the Cherry Mobile Fuze and Cloudfone Excite 470q, seriously underperformed in the battery tests by yielding the highest mAh consumed per hour in the looping video playback test among all the phones I reviewed. It just consumes more power than the MTK6589 or MTK6577 chipset at any state other than deep sleep. Thankfully, the Rio manages to yield slightly better results than the Excite 470q which also has the same 2000 mAh capacity. It's safe to assume that the trend won't be different for any other MTK6582-equipped phone released in the near future with average battery capacities. If the only outlet available is at home, having a power bank is advised if you want to last an entire work day with moderate to heavy use.
Standby time is good on the Rio and I managed to use only 3% over a 10 hour period of standby with the occasional peek at the screen every other hour. An hour of music playback at maximum volume drains around 5% per hour in my experience. In terms of actual usage, I can manage between 3 and 4 hours of screen time with mixed use, including 1 1/2 to 2 hours of 3G data connection before reaching 20%, which is when I stop using the phone for anything but calls and texts. It's very similar to the Excite 470q, except the Rio can squeeze a bit more juice. My screen brightness is set to 20% indoors and auto mode elsewhere.
Charging times with the stock 1A charger from 20% battery to full is just under 2 hours, which is pretty fast.
Battery Test - Looping VideoClick thumbnail to view full-size
Battery Test - 3D gamingClick thumbnail to view full-size
I have decided to redo how I assess audio quality, starting with this review. I felt that my prior methodology of making subjective what is an essentially objective testing has become rather arbitrary despite the presence of reference devices. It also has to be said that the metrics of the testing itself has difficulty describing to the reader what the audio will actually be like, even if the testing was done in an objective manner with a DAC to analyze the input signal via an audio analyzer software like RMAA.
My new assessment method involves describing the common sonic characteristics of audio equipment in a manner that most are familiar with. This allows arbitrary testing to be more acceptable due to the nature of the metrics being one of preference, rather than simply a positive or negative. This better conveys to the reader what their expectations of the audio will be like. These characteristics are often more associated with listening equipment, but also apply to playback equipment as well. This lets the reader create an impression of how well it will play with the listening gear they have.
The Rio is primarily a bright source and is most likely the result of the on-board DAC (digital-to-analog converter), as the two previous phones I've reviewed with the MTK6582 chipset also had similar qualities, although neither of them sound exactly the same. It's best paired with warmer or bass-centric listening gear to offset the coldness that begins from the lower mids and extends downwards. V-shaped gear should also do well with a boost on the mids. Bass impact and subbass is difficult to salvage on more balanced or analytical gear even with EQing.
Power output on the Rio is sufficient for gear with resistance of up to 45 ohms, which include both IEMs and smaller headphones (<40 mm drivers). There's minimal distortion at maximum volume, so there's a bit of headroom for some additive EQing -- helpful for those with more balanced and neutral-centric gear like me. For more intimate listening in quiet environments, the Rio's power output is more than enough. But in noisier environments, an IEM is a must because it won't be able to drive open-air earphones or headphones to volumes high enough to drown out the noise (which I don't recommend unless you wanna go deaf).
The Rio is also CTIA compliant, which means newer headsets (earphones and headphones with microphones) that work on newer Android phones (2013 onwards) will work on the Rio. I can confirm that my Sony MH1C and stock Galaxy S4 headset, which are both CTIA compliant, work on the Rio. I also tried my Apple Earpods, and while both left and right drivers were working correctly, the inline microphone didn't work.
The Rio has a 4 GB ROM, of which 2.53 GB is usable and divided into 0.98 GB for internal storage and 1.55 GB for phone storage. Unlike the two MTK6582 phones I reviewed recently, the micro SD card is not mounted as 'sdcard0' nor does the Rio have a function out of the box that allows the phone memory and micro SD card "to switch places". This means that there's only 1.55 GB of storage for extraneous data, and a large game like Real Racing 3 has data that weighs well over 1 GB.
To get around this, you will have to root the Rio first. Thankfully, rooting the Rio is the same as rooting any other MTK6582 device and it can be done in less than 10 minutes with or without a PC. If you'd like to use a PC, this method is the one I used to root my Rio. You can also download the latest Framaroot app, install it on your Rio, run Framaroot and try each of the exploits. Once rooted, you can either do one of two things:
- Modify the vold.fstab to change the mounting of 'sdcard0' and 'sdcard1', thus switching them. Most people just call it a "memory swap". *DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS UNLESS YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING* Even a single error on the fstab edit will put the phone on a bootloop. Attempt this only if you have a custom recovery and backup image.
- Use an application like FolderMount that fools the application into thinking that the extraneous data is on the phone storage, when in reality it's on your micro SD card. Basically, it pairs the data or obb folder on the phone memory to its counterpart on the micro SD card.
The Rio is mostly stock Android with customized icons, but they have included a few other things. One of these is 'Clever Motion', which is basically like Air Gestures on a Samsung Galaxy phone which makes use of the proximity sensor and accelerometer to initiate certain actions. You can also customize which actions you want to activate in certain situations. There's also a bunch of bloatware included, of which only 'Movie Studio' is worth mentioning. Movie Studio is a basic video editor that allows you to stitch and trim video clips, add music, insert captions and apply simple transitions and effects.
There's also USB OTG on the Rio which allows you to use plug and use various USB devices with the phone such as keyboards, mice, flash drive, game controllers, etc. I tested what most people would use, including external hard drives. Unfortunately, neither my NTFS or FAT32 2.5" portable external drives could be read by the Rio. At first I thought the Rio just couldn't power it, so I charged the Rio to full and tried it again. It still couldn't, not even my oldest 40 GB IDE hard drive from a 2006 laptop inside a 2.5" enclosure, which is formatted FAT32.
Aside from that, the Rio plays well with most USB devices. It can even charge my bluetooth speaker and other phones, although I advise against it given the Rio's average battery capacity.
Call quality on the Rio is above average, being able to fend off most background noise despite the lack of a secondary noise cancellation mic. Microphone pickup could be better, but is clear enough. Covering your mouth and the mic is still advised in very noisy environments. The loudspeaker is reasonably loud and crackle-free, but chances are you still won't hear it in a noisy environment like the supermarket or while walking down the road while the Rio is in your pocket.
Wifi reception on the Rio is a revelation given its MediaTek chipset, offering good range as well as strength and pickup even when faced with physical obstructions. SNR remains high and signal stable even if there's a wall in the way at moderately far distances. Do note that the router itself also has a say in this, but the Rio shows itself to be good.
Likewise in terms of GPS performance, the Rio also exceeds that of what you'd expect of a MediaTek chipset. Even without EPO data preloaded, the Rio manages to pickup a few satellites almost immediately and finally managed to get a lock in 40 seconds. It can take as short as a second to reacquire a GPS lock with previous lock data less than an hour old. There's also a magnetic sensor present and you can use the Rio as a compass offline.
This review is supposed to be about finding chinks in the armor and there's not much to say about the Rio that hasn't already been said or hasn't been implied by its spec sheet. It has a 720p IPS screen, a first for a smartphone under 5,000 Php. It also has the MediaTek MTK6582 chipset which is the fastest in this price range. It also has an 8 megapixel camera that's solid in decent to good lighting. It also has a bunch of features that aren't common like the magnetic sensor, LED notification light and USB OTG. It's armed to the tooth and does a lot of things well, and for the price it doesn't do anything too terribly. So I'll be nitpicking here.
First is that the Rio hasn't been optimized well enough that UI response and smoothness is a stepback despite relatively powerful hardware. You can tell some people that "this is very fast!" or "this has the latest hardware!", but if it doesn't feel like it it's still a dealbreaker. Second and more importantly is the small storage. It's been the norm that Android phones from local brands have small ROMs, usually just 4 GB. When I was talking to an acquaintance of mine the other day who's also reviewing the Rio, Alexei Rivera who runs the local tech blog 'The Technoclast', he pointed out that quite a number of phones released by local brands have what is essentially a fully working "move apps to SD" feature. It's something I've overlooked up until now due to my misunderstanding of the feature, but I can confirm that it does work. It doesn't actually move apps to the micro SD card per se, it basically swaps the phone storage and your micro SD card. This allows you to choose if you want to make your micro SD card your primary storage. The Rio doesn't have this and those who aren't very tech savvy are at the mercy of the small internal storage. MyPhone, if you are reading this, you need to put a feature that allows the user to select the micro SD card as the primary storage.
In one fell swoop, MyPhone has made obsolete two of its more expensive 5" phones, the Cyclone and A919i. It also makes the 4,000 Php, 5" Hail a terrible deal altogether. Not only that, it performs at least as good or better in key areas against more expensive competition from other local brands, potentially upsetting the balance in a sizable price range. As far real world performance is concerned, the Rio has its bases covered. One could argue that the Rio could be made better, with a glass screen and better materials. But most in this price range just want the best specs for the price and couldn't care less about such things. MyPhone made the right trade-offs with the Rio.
With this, the MyPhone Agua Rio is THE phone to get at 5,000 Php. This will most likely be their best seller this 2014. Their new "quad core ng bayan", if you will.
Update: MyPhone has released an OTA update that allows the user to select the micro SD card as the primary storage. The update also significantly improves UI speed and response.
+ MediaTek MTK6582 processor and 1 GB of RAM provides best in class performance; very suited for gaming
+ 5.0" 1280x720 IPS screen is one of the best displays available in this price range
+ 8 megapixel camera takes very good pictures in decent to good lighting; takes decent 1080p videos in decent to good lighting
+ Simple, functional and ergonomic design; comes in a variety of colors
+ Has USB OTG
+ 4,999 Php only
- Unoptimized UI
- Mediocre battery life
- Low light camera performance is poor relative to its performance in decent to good lighting; takes some patience and effort to take decent shots in low light
- No feature to choose the micro SD card as the primary storage
Official MyPhone Agua Rio Specs
5.0" HD IPS Display, 1280x720 resolution
1.3GHz Mediatek MTK6582M quad core processor
1GB of RAM
4GB of ROM, with micro SD slot expandable up to 32GB
8 megapixel rear camera with autofocus and LED flash
2 megapixel front camera
Wi-Fi, Wireless Display, USB OTG, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS
2,000 mAh Baterry
Android 4.2 Jelly Bean
SRP: 4,999 Php
This section will be continuously updated in the future. Here, I'll include phones that compete best with the MyPhone Agua Rio.
Cherry Mobile Omega Spectrum
Current price: 4,999 Php
The Omega Spectrum is Cherry Mobile's attempt to rain down on the Rio's parade by offering seemingly similar specs at the same price. Looking at it more closely though, the Omega Spectrum's Broadcom BCM23550 chipset is no match for the MTK6582 on the Rio, especially when it comes to graphics. The BCM23550 performs even worse than the MTK6589. Even without the performance detriments, the VideoCore IV graphics on the BCM23550 may run into some compatibility problems with some games. The only clear advantage the Omega Spectrum has is GLONASS support, which together with GPS, makes location lock-ons faster, more accurate and reliable. Other than that, it's very hard to pick the Omega Spectrum over the Rio due to a big performance gap.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.